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Beet 2023 02 February

We’re Back!!

By Beet 2023 02 February

So exciting to see so many new and enthusiastic Class of 2023 Master Gardener students!



Jane organized and led a perfect first day for students! 






Barbara Low along with Kathy Apple, Karcie Katz, Colet Allen and Janine Salvatti provided the students with a wonderful potato bar and salad luncheon. They baked potatoes, made chili, and brought all the toppings, cookies, and drinks for about 70 people.

                                                       Our president, Marcie Katz, always hard at work. 



Our newbies were warmly and enthusiastically greeted by Lynn Kunstman, Pam Hiller, and Lucy Pylkki, and Margaret Saydah





Sandy Hammond set up a” free” book table for students. 


We are off to a great start with the Class of 2023!

Keystone Native Trees Promote Biodiversity

By Beet 2023 02 February

By now, most gardeners understand the importance of native plants in performing our critical ecosystem services. These services are carbon sequestration, soil restoration, food web value, wildlife habitat, watershed value, pollinator habitat, and weather moderation. While the exotic plants we grow in our gardens may perform some of these functions, they do not contribute to the food web in any sustainable way. Native plants, adapted to our area, are truly the workhorses of biodiversity and ecosystem stability.

That said, not all native plants contribute at the same level. In fact, about 5% of plants support around 75% of insects. These are called KEYSTONE plants, because of their critical function and contribution to ecosystems.   And as insects are the food of most vertebrate species, we must support and increase their numbers as much as possible. We can have a positive and quite efficient effect in our yards by choosing and planting local keystone native plants.

Begin with trees, which are the food web powerhouses, both for pollinators (yes, the bees are in the trees!) and for insect bird food. Rogue Valley trees listed in this article will be linked to the Oregon Flora where you can read a description of each. If you have a small suburban yard, some of these trees may not be appropriate. Here are our top keystone trees:

Native Willows (Salix): In the western United States, willow trees host the highest number of moths and butterflies (312 species of Lepidoptera), which are the primary source of food for our songbird nestlings and fledglings. These are NOT the weeping willow planted in yards and parks, which comes from Asia. Oregon willows are widespread and varied.  Several occur in Jackson County. They prefer wet sites and should not be planted on small lots or near drain or sewer lines, as they will invade pipes. But if you have property with a creek, or low wet area, by all means get some established.

Native Cherry (Prunus):  Most of us are familiar with Prunus avium, the sweet cherry introduced from Europe that is now naturalized throughout much of the Willamette Valley and coastal mountains. Birds have carried these seeds to wild areas where they establish. Please plant one of our three native cherries, Bitter Cherry (Prunus emarginata), Klamath Plum (Prunus subcordata) and Chokecherry  (Prunus virginiana). All three are small trees which can be grown in smaller lots as specimen trees or added to a hedgerow along a fenceline to provide screening, cover, food and nesting sites for birds. Native cherries host 240 species of Lepidoptera.

Native Oaks (Quercus): Our local native oaks are Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis), Garry or Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana), California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii), and a quite nice shrubby chaparral species, Huckleberry Oak (Quercus vacciniifolia). This last is not a huckleberry, but a true oak, with acorns and leaves that resemble Vaccinium. Hence the name. Western oaks host over 200 species of moth and butterflies and tasty caterpillars for baby birds.

There are many other keystone trees you could explore: birches, alders, aspen, poplars, Douglas Fir and maples. Choose trees that are appropriate to your soil and water conditions.

Some of these plants and many more are for sale in our JCMGA nursery, on the SOREC Extension campus, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. The nursery is open for sales on Wednesdays from 10 am to noon, April through October, and by appointment. Contact Lynn at to schedule an appointment. We also have seasonal pop-up sales, so be on the lookout for those.

Garden for Life!

What’s going on?

By Beet 2023 02 February

Marketing and Technology Working Group —

Off to a great start in the new year, the Marketing and Technology Working Group had our first meeting on January 9th.  Our meetings are held on the second Monday of each month unless it works out to be a national holiday.  This month’s meeting, we discussed many topics such as:

  • The focus of the Garden Beet
  • The Working Group budget for 2023
  • The Brochure
  • The use of QuestionPro
  • The new class for 2023
  • Zoom recordings.

If you are interested in joining our group for a discussion or to lend a hand or if you want more information, please contact Sandy Hansen, Chair at or 707-332-4934.  All are welcome.


Member Services Working Group –

We are off and running!  Our working group members along with some other Board members organized the Class of 2023 First Day Lunch – a great success.  We are now working on updating the Chapter Directory for 2023.  Our goal is to have the directory ready for you by the end of March.

If you are interested in being a part of our group, contact Barbara Low at .


Winter Dreams Summer Gardens Working Group –

Our group has started meeting to review the WDSG 2022 evaluation survey data.  What went well and what we can improve.  This month we will start planning the WDSG 2023 Symposium!

If you are interested is being a part of this group, please contact Colet Allen , Susan Koenig or Barbara Low .


Easy Fundraising for JCMGA

By Beet 2023 02 February

Over the years, my 1992 pickup had progressed from daily use to being used only occasionally for hauling loads of landscaping material, then to being towed to the mechanic every time I wanted to use it, to an ugly yard ornament. I had been thinking for a long time about donating it to a local nonprofit for a tax write-off so was overjoyed when the Jackson County Master Gardener Association entered a partnership with CARS (Charitable Adult Rides and Services). This organization accepts cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, boats, motorcycles, ATVs, RVs, trailers, and airplanes to fix up for resale or to sell as parts — with a large portion of the profits going to a nonprofit of the donor’s choice. I decided to give it a try.

Arrangements can be made by either filling out a form on the CARS website at or by calling 1-855-500-RIDE (7433). Have the title available when contacting them. They will ask for information from it. If doing it online, when prompted to choose a nonprofit to receive the proceeds, click on the Education and Research category to find JCMGA.

A date will be set for your donation to be picked up that depends on availability of a tow truck. My date was December 31. New Year’s Eve turned out to be a very busy day for tow trucks so my date had to be moved to the following week.

That’s all there is to it. CARS does the rest. They arrange and pay for repairs to make the donation sellable, if possible. If this isn’t possible, they part it out and sell the parts. Their goal is to ensure the chosen nonprofit makes the maximum amount of money. Within 30 days of the sale, they send a thank you letter that can be used as a tax receipt. If the donated vehicle sells for more than $500, they will also send an IRS Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes, if your tax ID number (usually your Social Security number) has been provided.

Easy peasy! No more ugly yard ornament! A tax deduction in hand! A nice donation to JCMGA! And a feel-good moment as you wave goodbye.

Getting in the Pink

By Beet 2023 02 February

Whether crimson, fuchsia, garnet, ruby, scarlet, or vermillion, the seed heads of amaranth species such as Amaranthus cruentas, A. caudatus and A. hypochondriacus will truly put your garden plot in the “pink”! Amaranthus blitum, A. spinosous and A. tricolor have brilliant edible stalks and leaves.

Amaranth wasn’t recognized until the American health movement in the 1970s, according to the Oldways Whole Grain Council, but it’s been grown here for a long time. Today’s seed catalogs promote numerous varieties to sow in home gardens.     

A brief history:  Evidence points to A. cruentas as the first cultivated amaranth, with remains found in northern Argentina dating back 8,000 to 7,000 years ago. Pale forms dating to around 4000 BC have also been discovered at Tehuacan Puebla in Mexico.

Despite difficulties in accurately tracking the beginning of amaranth’s cultivation, records document amaranth in regions of central and southwestern parts of North America. It’s been found in Ozark rock shelters from 1100 AD. Documents show indigenous tribes along the Colorado River in present day Arizona and Utah traded it to colonial explorers.

The most significant records show that for the 15th-16th century Aztec empire amaranth was one of three major staple and ceremonial crops. It also appeared in ancient Southeast Asia and China.

So why grow this ancient plant? Amaranth offers leafy greens and “super” seed.  Although not a true cereal, it’s one of six “pseudocereals” – technically seed, but used like cereal grains.

Despite their miniscule size, amaranth seeds are protein powerhouses. Its complete protein is double that of rice or corn, containing more than 10% of the RDA of protein, fiber, iron, selenium and B pyridoxine; 20% of magnesium and phosphorus; and half the RDA of manganese. It’s also gluten free!

Impressive seed-producing varieties can reach 9’ or more. Panicles of grains add the crowning touch with vertical, pendulous, and draping heads in a variety of vibrant magenta shades, neon green and brilliant gold.

Not interested in grain? Smaller varieties from 2’ to 5’ sport nutritious leaves and stalks in brilliant colors and striking patterns.

Being a C4 plant – a carbon fixer in high-temperature and low-moisture conditions – it’s highly adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions and elevations.

While cultivating amaranth is quite easy, choosing varieties to plant is more challenging considering all the delicious types to choose from. You just have to decide if you want edible leaves or heads full of seeds.

Whatever the variety, amaranth needs full sun and light, well-draining soil.  For stronger plants, start indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.

Sow seeds atop pre-dampened seed starter mix, covering them with a thin layer of the same mix. Water thoroughly, cover with a plastic dome lid, then keep at 65-75°F. until sprouts emerge in about 3-7 days.

Pot up when about 3-4” high, keeping plants under lights until last frost. After acclimating, transplant them out in rows, spacing plants 12” apart.

Harvest leaves and stalks for fresh greens. When grain falls from gently shaken plants, put the entire heads in bags, shaking to loosen the grains.

Whether you want an ornamental plant for wonderful seed heads or plan to harvest healthy leaves and grains, put the pink in your garden with the amazing, ancient amaranth.

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

They have numerous heirlooms and new varieties.


Johnny’s Select Seeds


Eden Brothers

8 varieties to select from.



Oldways Whole Grain Council

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds




Amaranth species are wind pollinated. Deter cross pollination by planting different varieties, including celosia, cockscomb, lambs quarter and pigweed, 1,000 feet from each other.

For flea beetles, use floating row cover until the plants are 2’ high and can handle damage.

Aside from consuming leafy stems and protein-rich grain, amaranth grain pops and makes a great dye.



Popped Amaranth

½ cup of amaranth seeds

1 deep-sided large heavy pot

colander or sieve

Heat a heavy pot over medium high heat until a few drops of water sizzle. Pour in amaranth. Shake continually until seed pops within a few seconds. When popping ceases, remove pot and dump popped amaranth in a colander. Shake to remove burnt or unpopped seeds.

Serve immediately or use in other recipes. ½ cup seed makes about 1 cup of popped amaranth.

Eat as is or use in other dishes like pilaf, atop salads, as a binder for meatless dishes or mix it with chopped toasted nuts and melted dark chocolate for a nutritious bar.


Chocolate Bliss Bars:

Mix 1 cup popped amaranth with ½ cup chopped toasted nuts and 8 oz melted dark chocolate. Spread in an 8”-square parchment-lined pan. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes, then cut into bars. These make a very healthy snack.